Rena Komine plays Isuku, a teenage diving champion with the enviable grace of my childhood swim-class fantasies. Sun-drenched long shots of adoring crowds languish in the dry heat of summer, the low-quality pixellations of my VHS rip dancing like a desert mirage. Isuku’s town is in cosmic trouble: an oracle in the form of a proto-Internet zodiac app predicts problems on the pastel-colored horizon. Tender teenage nervousness. In a championship montage that nods to the comparatively less sinister moments of Leni Reifenstahl’s Olympiad, Isuku hits the water like rock. Just as the cosmos predicted—her town is in a state of elemental confusion, underscored by an otherworldly synth soundtrack.
Ishii’s narrative winds through tests mapped onto both personal and cultural grief—all the while, still finding time to linger in long-shots of empty streets at sunset. The city is drought-ravaged, photographed in a crackling palette of white and gold that beg for the quenching, chlorinated sleekness of its opening scenes. Following a mysterious injury, Isuku grasps for new metaphysical self-understanding. She trades books on astrology and draws star charts in her class notes, a conduit of divine knowledge like the mystical paintings of Hilma af Klint. But her newfound spirituality is far from the narcissistic solipsism of millennial astrological navel-gazing. The neon-green Futura that flickers across an early operating system mirrors the lush emerald forest that, following her accident, Isuku is inexplicably drawn to. Nature and artifice exist in concert, each inspiring equal wonder.
Ecocriticism inflected with coming-of-age romance, August in the Water is a new-age love story from the precipice of a new millennium. With a haunting minimal vaporwave score by Hiroyuki Onogawa, Ishii’s film offers a touching answer to the alienation of teenage girlhood.
August in the Water
director GAKURYU ISHII
director of photography NORIMICHI KASAMATSU
cast RENA KOMINE and SHINSUKE AOKI
words ADINA GLICKSTEIN
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